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death precedes transformation

death precedes transformation

Recently a friend died. Unexpectedly. Quickly.

In his prime.

Sudden death shocks us. It takes us by surprise.

In its wake we contemplate mortality, mostly our own.

We speculate on what comes after.

We tell ourselves stories, we reiterate our beliefs.

We comfort ourselves.

But we cannot know what lies across the threshold.

No one knows till they go themselves.

All the way.

Without coming back.

And they can’t tell.


An unexpected and quick death can be a lucky card.

The winner in a mostly bad deck, filled with bad, sad and ugly. Just for starters.

Death has only one constant. All things succumb.

Death is the great equalizer.


My friend was lucky.

He died quickly.

Living his life to the full.

In a house he loved. Surrounded by his acres of trees, native animals and birdsongs.

He died at home. An octagonal room with a mud brick oven/open fire dead center that held up the cross beams.

Made of reclaimed and recycled materials.

Built by himself, sometimes in the jovial company of friends.


A huge slab of polished wood made the kitchen table.

He cut that wood with a good friend, using the old logging rig out in the yard.

A still wet oil painting sat on the easel.

He’d named it ‘Sailing Away’.

A small boat with big red, wind-filled sails, heading towards the horizon.

A boat in its prime.

Heading into the unknown.


A small alcove made a good music room.

An old stereo, big record collection, guitars, a borrowed keyboard and his treasured violin.

A man enraptured by melody and sound.

A friend had just written him a song.

All about him sailing away (no knowledge of the painting), leaving the rest of us clods behind.


He talked of a trip to his boyhood home.

Down the south coast.

To show his woman.

Kept saying he had, ‘a yearning to return’.

He went farther than he thought.


Depending on where we sit, death precedes a great adventure, spiritual fulfillment, or a dissolving into nirvana, into a state of perfect nothingness.

We can only speculate

But Paulie knows

He went all the way

He didn’t come back

So he can’t tell


This little guy with the cheeky smile is a hybrid duck. He/she comes from the Mallard, an introduced duck, interbreeding with the common Pacific BlackThey are both Dappling Ducks that take insects, seeds and floating vegetation from on or just below the surface.


One of the locals

One of the locals

The Eastern Rosella is a colourful broad-tailed parrot with distinctive cheek patches coloured according to location. On the east coast of Australia they are white-cheeked with red heads and red breast and a beautiful golden mantle of black feathers edged with yellow. They are fairly common inhabitants of open woodland and are often seen in my garden in pairs.

Long Reef, Sydney Australia at dawn.

Long Reef, Sydney Australia at dawn.

I was down in Sydney town a couple of weeks ago… a seven hour drive down south from my usual abode … staying in an old house that belongs to my family. The house was originally a four room ‘holiday’ home with an outside loo, and while it has grown somewhat over the last seventy years, much of the original remains. From the deck, or ‘verandah’ to some, the view looks north-east towards a large promontory that juts into the Pacific Ocean surrounded by extensive reefs, an extinct volcano where I wandered as a child, picking up fossils as easily as one normally picks up shells. Over the years the trees have grown and a new house has gone up next door, yet even they could not damper the beauty of the early morning sky just before the sun came up, a fitting tribute to the molten heat of a once active and fiery volcano.


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